At Plug In America, we represent the more than 1 million Americans who have switched to electric vehicles (EVs). We also train and support many auto dealers who recognize that more and more consumers want EVs because they are fun to drive, offer greater convenience and are cheaper to fuel and maintain.
This is why we were surprised and baffled by the recent opinion piece by Tim Jackson, CEO and president of the Colorado Automobile Dealers Association. While we respect Jackson and his opinion, we question his arguments, many of which cite outdated, misleading and factually incorrect information about plug-in electric vehicles. Here we correct and update this information so that Colorado consumers can have the choice of vehicle they deserve and make more informed decisions about these vehicles that are widely recognized as the future of the automobile industry.
Jackson declares that the zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) guidelines now under consideration by the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission “would actually place a financial penalty of several thousand dollars or more on those who, for whatever reason, find that an electric vehicle doesn’t fit their needs.” This is false and misleading. Let’s be clear: under the proposed guidelines, there are no penalties for consumers who do not purchase electric vehicles.
Adoption of the ZEV guidelines increase consumer choice by giving Colorado residents greater access to the electric vehicles that they want. The guidelines do not take away access to vehicles without a plug and they have no impact on pricing of conventionally powered cars and trucks.
He also notes that the Tesla Model S runs in the $75,000–$96,000 range, seemingly to indicate that electric vehicles are too expensive for the average consumer. He fails to note that the Model S is outsold 10-to-1 by the Tesla Model 3, which starts at just $39,900 before incentives, of which there are many, that lower the price even more. Other popular plug-in models cost even less, including the Toyota Prius Prime, Chevrolet Bolt EV, Honda Clarity Plug-In Hybrid, and Nissan LEAF.
Jackson then cites very limited data from five years ago to support his claim that EV incentives go mainly to the wealthy. There are presently more incentives available to all income levels. Most EV drivers, as many as 80 percent and particularly those who are low- to middle-income, lease their vehicles. In these cases, the federal EV tax credit is awarded to the lienholder and often passed along to the driver through reduced lease payments, making EVs more affordable for consumers. However, because these consumers do not receive the tax credit directly, they are not included in the study Jackson cites. Nor does this study consider Colorado’s tax credit of up to $5,000, which also makes EVs more affordable for families.
He also argues that “electric vehicles come up short” in regards to SUVs and pickups. While it’s true that there are not yet any electric pickups available, you can walk into a Colorado auto dealer and purchase the Kia Niro, Mitsubishi Outlander, Audi e-tron and Subaru Crosstrek plug-in hybrid SUVs today at a competitive price point from a total cost of ownership standpoint. Details on these and other electric vehicles can be found at PlugStar.com. Many more models, including pickups, are coming soon.
We agree wholeheartedly that “Colorado’s new car dealers are in the business of selling cars, no matter what technology they use.” Considering EV sales in Colorado increased by 70 percent in 2018 over 2017, we couldn’t disagree more with Jackson’s assessment of EVs, or his willful misuse of outdated and highly suspect facts to support his arguments. While we respect Jackson’s viewpoint, as a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization representing the voice of EV customers and the dealers that serve them, we are compelled to set the record straight.
Jackson should be excited that consumers are visiting Colorado’s auto dealers to purchase these new vehicles.
Joel Levin is executive director of Plug In America, the nation’s leading independent consumer voice for accelerating the use of plug-in electric vehicles in the United States. Joel is an advocate for low-carbon technologies and a frequent speaker and writer on topics relating to electric vehicles, clean energy, water policy and climate policy. He drives a Nissan LEAF and mostly charges at home on a Clipper Creek HCS-50 Level 2 charging station.